Issue 72

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Family Matters No. 72, 2005

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Growing Up in Australia

The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children - first findings

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Editorial panel: Matthew Gray, Alan Hayes, Meredith Michie, Catherine Rosenbrock, Denise Swift, Ruth Weston

Editors: Meredith Michie, Ellen Fish, Catherine Rosenbrock

Cover art: Art from the Growing Up in Australia (Longitudinal Study of Australian Children) 2006 Calendar, courtesy of the University of Melbourne’s Early Learning Centre.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 72
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, December 2005, 92 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Growing up in Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children

Matthew Gray and Ann Sanson

Growing Up in Australia is a longitudinal study of Australian children, and is Australia's first national study of its kind. This article provides a brief overview of the background and design of the study, followed by an overview of the papers included in this edition of Family Matters. Information is also provided on the management and implementation of the study and a listing of the Consortium Advisory Group. 

Young children and their grandparents

Matthew Gray, Sebastian Misson and Alan Hayes

Grandparents have always played an important role in raising children and in family life in general. However, very little is known about the role that grandparents play in the lives of Australian children. With data from the Growing Up in Australia study, the authors provide estimates of the extent to which young children have contact with their grandparents including: living with grandparents; face-to-face contact; child-grandparent contact after parental separation; and regular care by grandparents. They find that there are very few children who have no face-to-face contact with at least one grandparent. The paper also explores the quality of relationships between children and grandparents and compares it to that between centre-based carers and the children in their care. 

Impacts of work on family life among partnered parents of young children

Michael Alexander and Jennifer Baxter

An increasing number of mothers with young children are in paid employment and the effect of this on family life is of increasing policy and scientific interest. Based on the first wave of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, this paper investigates potential sources of work-to-family strain for partnered parents of young children. The analysis identifies the importance of gender, job characteristics such as flexibility and autonomy, non-standard hours and long work hours, and the nature of the family environment - parental roles, supportive husband wife relationship - in exploring how working parents experience negative spillover between their work and family lives. 

What can the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children tell us about infants' and 4 to 5 year olds' experiences of early childhood education and care?

Linda Harrison and Judy Ungerer

In this article the authors provide an overview of data from the Growing Up in Australia study on patterns of use of child care. Early childhood education and child care are a feature of the wider environment that will affect children over the course of the study. The first wave of data show the diversity of non parental care experiences of children today. This descriptive paper provides a useful starting point for examining the effects not only of the amount but also the quality of non parental care on children's development over the early years. Implications for policy and future research directions are discussed. 

Does it take a village?: An investigation of neighbourhood effects on Australian children's development

Ben Edwards

North American research suggests that the neighbourhood and community in which children live influence children's development. The author asks if this is the case in Australia and, if so, which children are most affected? The issue of neighbourhood effects on Australian children is relevant to community development policies devised by federal and state governments that aim to foster positive childhood development. Of particular importance is the influence that communities and neighbourhoods have on young children, as the first five years of a child's life are seen to impact on the rest of their lives. Two statistical measures were used to explore neighbourhood effects on children's developmental outcomes: the LSAC Outcome Index which was designed to measure physical, social/emotional and learning domains and the Socio-Economic Indices for Areas (SEIFA) Index of Advantage/Disadvantage. Results from this study suggest that neighbourhood advantage and disadvantage are associated with children's social/emotional, physical and learning outcomes. 

The relationship between childhood injuries and family type

Nicholas Richardson, Daryl Higgins, Leah Bromfield, Greg Tooley and Mark Stokes

Using data on the 4-5 year old children participating in the Growing Up in Australia study, this examination of the relationship between family structure and incidence of child injury indicates that children in sole parent families, but not in stepfamilies, were over represented among the 17 percent of children who sustained an injury. Although children living in sole parent and step families have a slightly higher injury rate than those in intact families, this slightly higher injury risk could be fully explained by the higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage in sole parent households. It is likely that any higher risk for child injury in non intact families occurs because such families are more likely to possess child, parent, family and neighbourhood characteristics that are risk factors for child injury, rather than being specific to family type itself.

A comparison of children's temperament and adjustment across 20 years

Diana Smart and Ann Sanson

The Australian Temperament Project has followed a large cohort of Victorian children since their infancy in 1983, and the dataset includes some identical measures on the children in infancy and at 4 years to the first wave data of the Growing Up in Australia study. The authors have used this opportunity to compare children's temperament and behaviour over this 20 year period. They found little difference in children's temperamental characteristics, and no evidence that children today have higher levels of emotional or behavioural difficulties than children 20 years ago. 

From here to paternity: Family biographies in the making

Steven Talbot

Modern fatherhood in Western society is a paradox of complex and competing images emphasising the importance of paternal involvement. In this article the author reports on a small qualitative study which explores the ways in which definitions of fatherhood and paternal identities are located within men's personal experiences of fatherhood, as well as within a variety of social contexts and processes.

Teenage mothers: Constructing family

Alison Morehead and Grace Soriano

What are the supports, pressures and additional labour that shape decisions teenage mothers make about family life? A study focusing on adolescent mothers provides a good opportunity to examine some of the recognised factors in the work and family debate that lead mothers to decide not to participate in paid work. The Teenage Mothers Study, conducted between November 2004 and May 2005, provided data which served to highlight the differences between teenage and older mothers in terms of the debate on work and family. To actively make decisions about how to combine work and family, the authors argue that a parent needs to have a strong enough identity to generate preferences. Teenage mothers need to be helped to develop a positive identity in order to develop preferences and commit to a course of action that will lead them into the next stage of their lives. 

Family trends: A woman's place? Work hour preferences revisited

Lixia Qu and Ruth Weston

Nearly a decade has passed since the report by Glezer and Wolcott on mothers' work hours preferences was published (Work and family values, preferences and practice, 1997). In this article the authors look at whether mothers' preferences have changed during this time. They found that employment rates of mothers with young children have increased, along with a preference for longer hours among those working minimal hours.

Relationships: Perspectives on the future of marriage

Robyn Parker

With marriage rates falling and cohabitation rising in many Western societies, there are concerns in some quarters that the future of marriage is bleak. What lies beneath these trends, and what are the implications for the institution of marriage? In this article the author discusses some of the current international thinking, and outlines the explanations for the trends offered by researchers and scholars and their views on the ways in which some of the patterns could play out in the long term.